The Orlando Magic didn’t set any franchise lows against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, but what transpired inside Amway Center was perhaps more humiliating than Monday’s lopsided 31-point loss in Boston. This time, the Magic blew a 27-point lead to endure another humbling defeat to an undermanned Celtics, 91-83.
Just three days earlier, the Magic suffered a upsetting loss to the Celtics at TD Garden. On Monday, Orlando scored only 56 points and shot a dismal 16 field goals, as they were outmatched by an injury-riddled Celtics roster. They played with almost no energy and folded under pressure. Thursday night’s performance was worse. The Magic experienced another offensive meltdown, lost its composure late and once again wilted under duress to fall to Boston for the second time this week.
The Magic dominated the first half. Orlando’s first 24 minutes performance on Thursday was a complete reversal of Monday’s collapse. And although foul trouble limited Dwight Howard to less than seven minutes of playing time in half, the Magic picked up on both ends without him, moved the ball effectively and closed the opening quarter on a 30-11 run to build a 16-point lead. By halftime, Orlando led 58-37, eclipsing its point total in the entire first game by a basket.
Boston took over in the second half and erased Orlando’s 27-point margin. The Celtics played again without starters Rajon Rondo, who missed his fourth game because of a sore right wrist, Ray Allen, who was out for a second game with an injured left ankle, and this time, starting center Jermaine O’Neal, who was on the sideline due to a sore left knee. Kevin Garnett shifted to center to handle Howard, and former Magic players Brandon Bass (10 points) and Mickael Pietrus (12 points) were inserted into Boston’s starting lineup. Paul Pierce, the Celtics perennial All-Star, led Boston’s improbable comeback with a game-high 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Combined by big shots by Bass and forward Chris Wilcox’s (four points) dirty work, perhaps no Celtics performance was greater than the play of rookie guard E’Twaun Moore.
The 6’4”, 22-year-old guard out of Purdue, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to lead a 15-1 Celtics run past a Magic team that led by 11 points entering the final period. At 7:41 to play, Moore hit his fourth trey of the night to give Boston their first lead, 79-76, since the first quarter. Even though the Magic went 1-for-5 from the free throw line during the stretch, Howard posted Garnett and cut Boston’s lead to one, 79-78, with 5:58 left. After Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu missed from downtown, Moore connected on a floater over Howard; followed by a Bass 20-footer and the Celtics grabbed a five point advantage, 83-78.
Orlando made only eight total baskets in the second half and in the fourth, shot a dismal 2-for-17 from the field. The Magic began to lose their composure and players started to react to almost every non-call. Mild-mannered Ryan Anderson (12 points) hit with a technical with 3:47 remaining, after Anderson complained he was fouled when Moore emphatically stuffed his 4-foot jumper. Pierce knocked down the free throw to put the Celtics up 84-78. Howard picked up a tech of his own shortly thereafter, but Pierce failed to connect at the line. Turkoglu cut the lead to 84-80 with two free throws, but Bass came through with his second top-of-the-key jumper for an 86-80 Celtics lead with 2:58 left. On the following play, Bass blocked Turkoglu and Boston carried their six-point edge into the final minutes. Jason Richardson’s charge with 48 seconds left gave way to a Pierce free throw, before Turkoglu’s 3-pointer cut the Celtics lead to 87-83. Free throws by Pierce, Bass and Moore finished off the Magic 91-83.
Since a season-best five-game winning streak, the Magic (12-6) have lost the last three out of five games. Howard led Orlando with 16 points and 16 rebounds. He was presented with a commemorative plaque at the start of the game for surpassing former Magic guard Nick Anderson as the franchise’s career scoring leader. Turkoglu finished with 10 points, five rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. Richardson finished with 13 points and three steals. The Magic will look to regain their confidence against the hapless Hornets when they travel to New Orleans on Friday.
The Celtics (8-9) have won three straight for the just the second time this season. It also was their fourth consecutive victory over the Magic, dating back to last season. Garnett’s, who finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocks, interior defense disrupted the Magic’s offensive flow in the fourth. He later called Thursday’s night game a “bar fight,” as Boston fought their way back from such a large deficit—thanks in part to Moore, who was perfect from behind the arc going 4-of-4 to finish with 16 points in 18 minutes of action. The Celtics will host the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden on Friday.